Friday, May 15, 2009


The new Blackburn Road across the Crooked Tree Western Lagoon
Glen Crawford and family at the entrance to Blackburn

Glen explaining the clearing and destruction of the land in Blackburn

May 17, 2009 Crooked Tree Village will witness the inauguration of a controversial new road across the Western Lagoon that will take farmers to the Blackburn Area.

This new road is a battle between the environment and development in the Crooked Tree Village Wildlife Sanctuary. In April of last year there was a dispute between the Area Rep. Hon. Edmond Castro and the Belize Audubon Society over the aforementioned road.

Crooked Tree Village is renowned for its birds, cashews and Cashew Festival. Crooked Tree Village is an inland island in the middle of a protected area; in fact, it is the only protected area in Belize where people resides. The first causeway to the village was built in 1983, to connect the village to the mainland across the Crooked Tree Lagoon.

The construction of this similar 1.7 mile road has been the source of significant controversy. The Belize Rural North Area Representative claims that the people have been suffering for a long time and this road will give some of the villager’s access to their farm lands and pasture across the Western Lagoon.

Last year was perhaps the lowest point in the long relationship between Belize Audubon Society and Crooked Tree Village. A few of the Villagers organized and collected money for fuel and borrowed bulldozers and other equipment to start this new road. Mr. Castro claimed that the first road was not well planned and that it impeded much of the natural flow for half of the lagoon’s drainage, and the environmental impact was dramatic.

The Audubon Society said the second road was even less well-planned, and it could be a disaster for the entire lagoon. The Belize Audubon Society said that they are not against progress, but a proper environmental impact assessment was not completed and a lot of community goodwill was sacrificed in the process.

A significant number of people in Crooked Tree Village have a fundamentally different view of the community’s responsibility to the protected status of the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary (CTWS). The challenge will be to work in that context to truly balance the needs of people and nature even when all the parties don’t agree on exactly what that means. This will be a long process. It’s not merely a matter of ignorance or lack of alternatives here.

Despite its importance for the people and the environment the future of Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary is under threat. The increasing pressure for development and land clearing is reducing the ability of the wetland to carry out its important role of flood control and water filtering. If this trend continues there is a serious risk that the wetland won’t be able to protect the land and the people of Crooked Tree Village from serious flooding as well as continue to provide clean water and food to people and wildlife. The removal of large areas of vegetation in the Blackburn and surrounding area of the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary will cause the water to flow off the land and could create problems of erosion and loss of fertile land. It could also reduce the ability of the wetland to absorb and filter the water, therefore reducing its ability to protect the villagers from floods.

Protecting the CTWS does not mean that development cannot take place. There should be a solution in striking the right balance between people and wildlife. For example, some of the farmers could retain some of the big trees while clearing the land and leaving a strip of the forest between properties no less than 60 feet from the lagoon. By doing this, it will ensure that the wetland can continue to function and everyone can profit from development. 


Louise Crawford said...

Hi Linda - I see that you have been very busy since the last time I visited your blog.

To All Crooked Treeans out there I had the wonderful experience to go on the road to Blackburn and it was truly an eyeopener. The entrance started at James Dawson house in Pine Ridge and in a blink of an eye you were in Blackburn. It is truly unbeliveable that you can get there so fast by road. I went there once when my father (Bra Pops) took us there in 1979 by dorey and it seems that he was paddling forever before we reached the other side. I encourage you all if you haven't been there on the new road this is one experience you wouldn't want to miss. I wish I had more time to explore back there.

According to Mr. Castro the next phase is to put in culverts so that the water will be flowing freely. At the opening ceremony I learned that the this couldn't have happened without the help of private companies who donated their machinery and their labor to help us make this happened.

So BIG THANKS for their contribution.

Keep up the good work Linda.

Anonymous said...

Do we know how many in Crooked Tree still farm? It would be nice to do a survey to get an exact figure.

Anonymous said...

I am wondering how did the younger generation in Crooked Tree lost touch with the land, specifically agriculture???

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Luke Espat will be getting any Blackburn land??? He sure was hot after land in Crooked Tree in 2007.

"Jules Vasquez,
Do you think the government is following the money, so to speak?

Edliberto Romero,
"Well if they are selling for several millions, definitely its money that's happening."

Jules Vasquez,
What has the Belize Audubon Society done to show its opposition?

Ana Dominguez-Hoare, Exec. Dir. - Belize Audubon Society
"Well in the case of Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, we have specifically spoken to the Forest Department because they are the ones that have jurisdiction over the site. We have also spoken to the developer, in this case it has been Mr. Luke Espat who has wanted to get land in the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary. We have demonstrated the importance of those sites and therefore we are totally the de-reservation of any of any land within the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary."

Linda Crawford said...

Hi Phillippa,

Thanks for your comments.

Regarding the number of farmers that are farming in the "Blackburn" it is a very small percentage. Crooked Tree has about 900 people and the number of farmers are no more than seven or eight.

I am not against progress for Crooked Tree Village, but the lack of planning and community participation was certainly not done. There are a number of rumors going on about the big plans for "Blackburn" and the people living within this sanctuary have no say or idea of what is going on.

I remember the plans of Mr. Espat, but I have no idea if he is involve with the distribution of the land. Blackburn is an area of over 9000 acres and again only a few are getting dozens and dozens of acreages. Come to think of it, who are these business people that funded the road? I do believe they are the only ones that will benefit in the long run from this project.

The area rep, Mr. Castro, said that the road will be expanding to Lamanai, which will make it only 14 miles from Crooked Tree. When people and tourist start using these roads, businesses will be established along the way, and who will benefit? The investors and the few that are getting the land.

In my opinion, there should be a land committee set up to distribute a lot or an acre to all the people from CT and their descendants if they are interested. The second thing that should be done is to set aside a third of this land for conservation.

There are a number of things that are wrong here; only if and when some of these ideas are implemented will the ordinary folks in the village benefit.

Linda Crawford